Lumiere lights up Durham for 10th Anniversary


From the 14th-17th November, Lumiere, the UK’s largest light festival, celebrated its 10th anniversary in Durham. According to early estimates, around 165,000 visitors braved the heavy rain to enjoy the artwork.

The festival alternates between London and Durham each year and, in the words of one student, “we were lucky enough to get it for its 10th anniversary”.

This year’s festival boasted 37 installations, including some old favourites such as Jaques Rival’s snow globe centrepiece I Love Durham and Top’la Design and Catherine Garret’s Baleen whale water projection Mysticete.

The assortment of exhibits on display are wide-ranging and cosmopolitan, taking in work from 55 artists of 12 different countries.

Pictured: Light Tunnel by Dan Shorten

As well as returning pieces, there was also a wealth of new art, including Dan Shorten’s Light Tunnel, Amelia Kosminsky’s “disquieting” Celestial Brainstorm, and Lucy McDonnell’s giant slinky, End Over End.

There was also a high level of participation from the local community: Durham Sixth Form Centre collaborated with Potuguese artists Ocubo and Storybox from New Zealand to create the shipment-container science showcase Are Atoms Alive? 

Students of East Durham College also came together to create Lift Off, a project drawing on the Apollo 50 project in Peterlee and creatively using a wall of the SU building as a canvas.

The decade-old spectacle is organised yearly by Artichoke, one of the country’s leading creative companies. A registered charity, it is funded by the Arts Council England.

The festival “brings the joy of art to everyday people.”

Deepa Mann-Klerr, Contributor to Lumiere 2019

In a statement released to the press, Helen Marriage (Artichoke’s Artistic Director) said of the occasion: “When Artichoke created our first Lumiere festival in Durham in 2009, we never expected that we’d be celebrating its 10th anniversary.

“It is a wonderful partnership with Durham County Council, with local businesses and institutions that support the festival and just as importantly, with the people of Durham themselves.”

Durham County Council is the body which commission Lumiere every 2 years. Its Chief Executive, Terry Collins, called this year’s Lumiere “an unforgettable programme of installations which have lit up Durham in a truly magical way” and thanked the “huge benefits” the festival has brought to “County Durham’s communities and economy”.

The featured artists also expressed their enthusiasm for the event and their contribution towards it, such as Buck Arends. Arends is a member of the 6-person ‘Mr Beam’ collective whose piano-based piece Keys of Light was featured in at Rushford Court.

The piece features a variety of pianists at work, whose piano-playing creates a colourful spectacle of light. For this year’s Lumiere, 160 pianists played in total.

“We never expected that we’d be celebrating its 10th anniversary”

Helen Marriage, Artichoke’s Artistic Director

This was the first time Mr Beam’s work reached the UK, with Arends stating that he has found that “apart from the weather, the whole experience has been very warm”.

Pictured: Keys of Light by Mr Beam

Of Keys of Light, the aim was apparently to create a work that was “interactive and accessible”, adding that “it was very touching to hear people’s stories, people who hadn’t played piano for 40 years. It was beautiful to create those opportunities for people.”

Accessibility was also a key focus for another creative. Deepa Mann-Klerr, who had two works featured, claimed that her works are outside the ticketed areas “to make the art accessible to everyone.

“This is what’s great about the festival, that it brings the joy of art to everyday people.”

Mann-Klerr’s contributed both Neon Dogs, and Shoefiti to the festival, saying that the motive behind her work is to elicit “a sense of joy and fun in the audience. It’s very much needed, especially in the times we’re living through.”

Neon Dogs, which playfully displays a neon landscape of dogs, bones, and dog poo, has already found success in previous years. It was shown in a previous London Lumiere festival, and was previously featured in Derry, Northern Ireland (Mann-Klerr’s home country).

Mann-Klerr said of this work that “the contrast between the hardness of neon, and the softness of balloon dogs, which the work imitates, was fascinating to me.”

Pictured Shoefiti by Deepa Mann-Klerr

Shoefiti, a vibrant rainbow-coloured reinterpretation of the image of shoes tied by their laces, is a new work of hers. It was created at quite short notice, but Mann-Kler thanked the Lumiere team for their “unfailing understanding and support” through the process of creation.

Lumiere is a central event in the Council’s #Durham19 project. This project displays the impact of the County Council’s continued (and growing) investment in culture and sports, to the point where many have dubbed this year the county’s ‘Year of Culture’.

Lumiere really harnesses Durham’s natural beauty.

The #Durham19 campaign celebrates the impact of this change and aims to increase visit and place Durham on the map as a cultural hotspot. It has been delivered by Visit County Durham, with the support of the Council and partners from across the country.

Many students have come out to show their appreciation, calling the event “dazzling” and “stunning”. One student praised the University’s involvement in particular, saying “it is enough of a privilege to study at Durham, let alone have it host such a beautiful event.

“Durham at night is wonderful in itself but Lumiere really harnesses its natural beauty, making for a lovely evening.”

Other students, particularly those who live on the Bailey, have shown only frustration for the event. One Hatfield College student said: “As pretty as it is, it’s not worth having the Bailey so clogged up that you can move.

“It took me 20 minutes to do a Tesco trip one day!” they added.

The County Council’s Chief Executive Terry Collins said, “I look forward to its return in 2021”, so regardless of the students’ opinions it seems as if Lumiere is to return again next year. 

Images by Matthew Andrews

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